JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — A 14-year-old painter and a 92-year-old quilter are among the local Black artists featured at a Juneteenth exhibit opening Friday night at Fischman Gallery downtown.
The 6-9 p.m. opening reception is free and will feature live music, historical information about Juneteenth, and several artists’ first public showings. The “Say It Loud!” exhibit runs through June 30 and is Fischman Gallery’s second annual collaboration with UMOJA Arts and Culture, a local non-profit.
“All the work is great,” UMOJA’s Angelitti Bradley said Thursday as gallery owner Nancy Fischman and volunteers finished hanging paintings and setting up displays. “It gives all the artists an opportunity to showcase their talent.”
The show also gives the community a chance to learn more about Juneteenth and to see its connections to art and self expression.
“Juneteenth is all about freedom and so the freedom to express yourself through the arts is a way to celebrate Juneteenth,” Bradley said. “A lot of people don’t know the history of Juneteenth so you come and we’ll have that history presented to you on the opening night.”
The art ranges from paintings and baskets to quilts and a collection of homemade shoes by Johnson City artist Deborah Grey — each with its own story that honors women.
“Each shoe has a story that it tells, so come and see her shoes and read what the shoe means,” Bradley said.
Among the painters represented are 14-year-old Bella Wall and two other teenagers, Hanifa Mohammed and Dakari Wheeler. Wheeler’s three pieces display a depth and skill that struck both Bradley and Fischman.
“These are awesome and he will be here (Friday), and maybe he can tell the story of who these people are and why he did the art for them,” Bradley said of Wheeler’s three portrait-style paintings.
At the other end of the age spectrum, 92-year-old Magdalene Storey has several quilts on display. They’ll be joined before the opening by another one.
“We will reveal a quilt made by students from the Langston Centre and the Carver Center,” Bradley said. “Pam Faw, who works here, helped them put pieces together and it all ties in with the Underground Railroad. So it’s all history.”
Bradley said many people know UMOJA only for its annual festival in late summer, but the non-profit has a broader reach.
“We do a lot of different events like this art show, and we do an evening with the elders where they tell stories about how they grew up here in Johnson City, we do puppet shows — we do all kinds of stuff.”
The gallery is in Atelier 133 at 133 Commerce Street. The “Say It Loud” show runs through June 30.
Additional artists include Javan Collie, Jason Flack, Diara Redd, Pam Faw, Dawn Smith, Pam Faw and Charlotte Faw.